Bonita Girls Have Senior Moment, Drop Final Season Game, 7-6

May 15, 2009
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Bonita's Amber Bachman pitches her last regular season game before the CIF playoffs.

Bonita's Amber Bachman pitches her last regular season game before the CIF playoffs.

Never was there so much emotion for such a meaningless game. Bonita had already clinched a berth in the upcoming CIF playoff and had nailed down a solid second-place league finish (20-5-1) behind Los Altos. But it was the last regular season game, which meant that four seniors – Amber Bachman, Carly Braveman, Hannah Carter and Breanna Vargas – would be donning their Bonita jerseys a final time before the post-season. After Thursday’s game, they never again would live in a “we’ll get ‘em next time” world. Their new edgy reality going forward is “lose one and you’re out!”

Some of the parents seemed to sense the finality of moment more than their softball-playing daughters.

“It’s kind of sad, because they’ve been playing with so many of these girls since they were eight years old,” said Linda Carter, whose daughter Hannah plays first base. “It’s sad to know this is it, but we’re excited about CIF. We know we’re not done!

To mark the occasion, Bonita parents came with balloons, flowers and cookies. While the seniors were showered with goodies, they were asked for their favorite Bonita softball memory.

For Amber, who is headed to Western Oklahoma University to continue her softball career, it was “locking Klude in the pantry at Palopinos house and Kelly shoving cake with onion cream cheese in her face.”

Carly Braveman, on her way to Santa Barbara City College to play field hockey, had some advice for her remaining teammates, “Always play with heart, chill on the drama and have fun.”

Breanna Vargas came with words of thanks: “Thank you Coach Ken for turning this program around and making this year one of the best.”

Seniors Hannah Carter, Carly Braveman, Breanna Vargas and Amber Bachman show off their flowers before their final season game.

Seniors Hannah Carter, Carly Braveman, Breanna Vargas and Amber Bachman show off their flowers before their final season game.

Hannah, who will continue playing at Citrus College, left little doubt she was a competitor to the end. “My favorite Bonita memory is winning league and beating San Dimas in the championship game of the San Dimas tournament,” she said.

Charter Oak, whose seniors were graciously presented flowers by Bonita players, weren’t as caught up in all the emotions. They had a game to play and were on a mission to secure third place.

In the top of the third, after threatening with rallies in the first and second, the Chargers broke through with five runs on four singles and a double. In the bottom half, appropriately enough, it was Carly, the senior, leading off with the Bearcats’ first hit. Ciara Liscano and Vargas followed with back-to-back bunt singles. A walk to Breeanna Sandoval pushed across one run and a second came when shortstop Jackie Campa was hit by a pitch. Charter Oak escaped further damage, however, when Chloe Wurst lined into an inning-ending double play. It was probably the hardest hit ball of the afternoon, only to come away empty.

Bonita sportswomanship at its best.

Bonita sportswomanship at its best.

In the top of the fourth, the Charger girls collected another run on an RBI double by Crystal Venegas driving in Andrea Sprague who led off the inning with a sharp single.

Bonita answered with three more in the bottom half on four consecutive singles by Clarice Spathias, Carter, Vanessa Romero and Liscano.

The score held, 6-5, into the bottom of the seventh, until the one-two punch of Bachman and Wurst, as it has all season, delivered again. After Bachman singled with one out, Wurst brought her home with a screaming double to right center.

Playing into the fourth hour, the now not so meaningless game had become a marathon and a pitched battle for bragging rights. In the top of the eighth, with two aboard, Charger cleanup hitter Kayla Papez, a .453 hitter going into the game, lofted a ball just over the outstretched arms of Carter at first base, before it landed just outside the chalk line. On an appeal, however, the infield umpire reversed the plate umpire’s decision, ruling the ball fair. Suddenly, Charter Oak had the bases loaded with two out, bringing Jennifer Gonzalez to the plate. On a two-strike count, she squirted a dribbler up the third base line that was untouched. Racing in from third, Aimee Spathias spiked the plate with what turned out to be the winning run.

Amber bears down on a batter.

Amber bears down on a batter.

Had Charter Oak stolen the game? Not necessarily. The Chargers, after all, had collected 17 hits to Bonita’s 12. Give the other team credit for coming ready to play in Bonita’s yard.

Had the loss on such a memorable day thrown a wrench in what hopes to be a long playoffs run for Bonita?

“We still end up finishing second in our league,” answered head coach Ken Carlson. “We still come out with a great 20-win season, which hasn’t been done in quite a while. The mindset of the players is still positive, granted a little bit down, because they wanted this game for the seniors. It doesn’t impact what we’ve got to do. We understand our mission and we’re going to go back and work hard and get ready for the playoffs.”

Even regarding Bonita’s sluggish start, Carlson found some silver. “We proved to ourselves, even when we were getting our hind quarters kicked, 5-0, that we could fight back. We stayed focused. We showed we have the positive players who can pull us through.”

Looking back on the entire season, Carlson liked what he saw. “I’m extremely proud of this group, considering the season they had last year, the ups and downs,” Carlson said. “This year they were asked to start the season with a brand new coach whom they knew nothing about. So it speaks volumes about their character because they came in with an open mind, they trusted in our system, they believed what we had to tell them and they worked hard.

The fruits of all that labor will be on display this Sunday, May 17, when the playoff seeding and pairings are announced. Stay tuned.

For Bonita, which finished 20-5-1, victory has always been about team first!

For Bonita, which finished 20-5-1, victory has always been about team first!

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